Why would a Christian like Vasko Kohlmayer have to lie to make his point?

From what I can tell Vasko Kohlmayer is an American naturalized citizen from Russia who writes a column called "Higher Things" on Christian topics in the Washington Times - the paper owned by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon.  His byline says he's writing from Moscow.

From the start, the truth is looking pretty weak here. The Washington Times is known for a euphemism called "Prudenizing", a dishonest writing practice. Why would a good Christian want to associate themselves with an organization known for dishonesty?

In his first article, "Atheism versus God: How did the universe begin?", Vasko says the following:

Most of those who don't believe in God say that the Big Bang was a chance event. In other words, the great explosion that brought the universe into being was a cosmic fluke.

... Because we know very well that explosions do not happen of themselves.

And yet many atheists make precisely this kind of claim. They say that the greatest of all explosions just happened. On this view, the universe just popped into existence spontaneously.

...

Common sense and experience tell us that the world does not work like this. Things just do not pop into being. Even children know this. If someone would claim spontaneous creation in connection with any other event, we would immediately think he has lost his senses.
But this is not the worst of it. The atheist claim also directly contradicts the most fundamental assumptions and observations of science. This is paradoxical, since most people of atheist persuasion say that they have arrived at their position on the basis of science and reason.

The problem is, however, that in all of its history science has never observed or documented a single uncaused event.

Everything that science has observed so far – whether on this planet or in the universe at large – has been subject to the cause-effect relationship.

There are two bits here that are problematic.  I thought that Vasko was merely ignorant of the facts, and pointed out to him in a comment where he was incorrect:  For example, science knows about many uncaused events.  Anyone who has taken intermediate physics or chemistry knows about virtual particles, brownian motion, and the decay of radioactive material, where events happen without cause all the time.

But his statement about what atheists believe needed serious correcting, so I wrote:

(Quoting Vasko's article: "Most of those who don't believe in God say that the Big Bang was a chance event.")

This statement is incorrect. Some do say it was chance (for example, perhaps it was a quantum event that cascaded into macro space.) But most atheists that I know say, "I don't know what caused the Big Bang."

"I don't know." That's an honest answer isn't it? It does not presume an answer. It invites further scientific inquiry. It asks us to engage, to create hypothesis and to test them. It deals with reality.
"God did it" is inherently a dishonest answer. You don't know that a deity created the Big Bang. There is no evidence for this - indeed, no evidence for any God or gods.

"God did it" is an answer that actively stifles investigation by assuming an answer. If the answer exists, then who will look for it? A thousand years ago Christians took a dim view of those people who actively investigated where a priest said "God did it." These people were called "Heretics". Some were put to death. The modern version of "God did it" is still reprehensible in that it stifles free inquiry.

This is self-evident.  By saying that a god did something unprovable, you are assuming something that you cannot know.  By calling this a "truth", you are in fact being dishonest.  I had thought that Vasko was merely ignorant of this, and tried to show why it is incorrect.

In Vasko's original article, he also says:

There are those who claim that to believe in God is not only unscientific, but also absurd.
This is certainly not the case. To the contrary, it is the denial of God's existence that contradicts both science and common sense.

...

It is only reasonable and logical to assume that the universe – just like everything else – had to have a cause. Judging by the staggering vastness, complexity and beauty of the universe, the cause that brought it forth must have been immensely powerful, superbly wise and exquisitely imaginative.

Such characteristics are normally associated with an entity we term God.
To believe in God – the transcendent cause of the universe – is thus neither illogical nor absurd. Not to believe in him is both.

Unbelief will remain to be logically and scientifically untenable until it can be demonstrated that it is possible for an uncaused event to occur.

So in the first bit, Vasko makes the assertion that science and common sense support the existence of God, and in the second bit he supports this assertion by reiterating that uncaused events do not happen - which we already know to be a false premise through scientific observation.  Since the article is built on a false premise, the entire article fails in its purpose to prove God.

I hoped he would learn from this.  Instead, he needed to protect himself, and to do so he needed a strawman to attack.

He chose to build that strawman out of my words.

In his next article, "Atheist, there is no such thing", Vasko said that he argued for a "transcendent cause – God – which brought the universe into being", and that his "exasperated" "unbelieving readers" "had to plead ignorance when it comes to the universe's origin.  Yes, we were "exasperated", because pleading ignorance is honest, while asserting something that you cannot know to be true is inherently dishonest.

And here is what Vasko said about me:

One reader who goes by the name Calladus wrote: "[M]ost atheists that I know say, 'I don't know what caused the Big Bang.' I don't know. That's an honest answer, isn't it?"

The commenter is right: It is honest to admit our ignorance. His admission is also instructive because it contains a revealing inconsistency.

According to the dictionary, an atheist is “one who denies the existence of a deity.” Despite the fact that Calladus claims to be to be such a person, he also confesses he doesn't know what brought the universe into existence.

But if he does not know that, he must also concede it is at least possible the universe was brought forth by a transcendent cause.

What this means is that Calladus does not know – and cannot know – for sure whether or not God exists.

I cannot believe that he is so muddle-headed to make this mistake.  This is a freshman - level logic mistake.  Did he even try to google his argument to examine it for weakness?  Because I admit to not knowing, I must "concede" that it is possible for God to exist.  Yes, I will do that readily right now.  It is completely possible for a god to exist that brought the universe into existance last week Thursday.  It is completely possible that the universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

But no one argues that this is true because these positions lack evidence.  The lack of evidence is not a reason to start asserting that your particular favorite flavor of God exists.  In fact, we can argue these positions without the need for a God.  We could argue that Markovians created the Universe.  Or we could argue that a natural process that we currently don't know about or understand created the Universe.  If we are wrong about this, we will discover our error during the investigation.  This is how science works.

Out of all of these positions, only one invites further scientific inquiry.  The rest all give a "just so" answer that stifles inquiry.  In other words, only one answer is open-minded and scientific.  Many explanations are "possible" - there are an infinity of "possible" explanations.  Instead of investigating them all, science investigates the probable explanations first.

Vasko also quotes one dictionary definition of atheist.  Why?  I'm not sure, but I have noticed this is a tactic used by many Christians (notably Ray Comfort) in order to "prove" that there is no such thing as an atheist.  The definition given says an atheist is: "a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings."  Let's break that down a little.

The first part of the definition "someone who denies a supreme being (God)" assumes that a God exists.  This definition assumes facts not in evidence, and is somewhat flawed due to that.  But by using the word "disbelieve" the definition is redeemed somewhat since the verb usage of "disbelieve" is to "have no belief."

It is true that some atheists beleive that no gods exist.  This is a form of "strong atheism".  I, on the other hand, merely lack a belief in Gods, because of the overwhelming lack of evidence.  By choosing such an easy definition, Vasko has made me into straw man, that he knocks down by saying, "If he wanted to be precise in his use of terminology, Calladus would call himself an agnostic. This term more accurately captures his “I don't know” admission."

This of course, confuses terminology and mixes apples with oranges.  Atheism and Agnosticism are two different things.  Atheism deals with belief, agnosticism deals with knowledge.  If you are are a person who is theistic, you have a belief that a god exists.  Someone who is a-theist does not have a belief that a god exists ("a" is the negation of "theism")  A person who is gnostic knows that a god exists.  Someone who is a-gnostic does not know that a god exists. (again, "a" is a negation).

There is a responsibility for people who claim to be an authority on a subject.  A person making such a claim must actually be an authority!  By confusing atheism and agnosticism, by taking a lack of evidence as evidence, and by making a straw man out of my words, Vasko has demonstrated that he is in no way familiar with the arguments of atheism.  From this position, anything he writes without first understanding the other side of the argument is intellectually dishonest.

When corrected in his mistakes, instead of acknowledging the correction Vasko "doubled down" and compounded his error.  This shows him to be uninterested - at best - or idiotically stupid at worst.

And by applying a dictionary definition to me, without ever bothering to ask me what I believe, Vasko has actually lied about what I believe.  This is beyond intellectual dishonesty, it shows him to be nothing more than a liar.

But why would a Christian have to lie to make his point?

9 comments:

jim said...

Precisely the kind of ignoramus that makes me an antitheist.

Peter Wall said...

I got hung up right at the beginning, where he says "the great explosion that brought the universe into being was a cosmic fluke" but "we know very well that explosions do not happen of themselves." That's not a valid comparison. The word "explosion" may be the same, but they refer to two completely different things. The "Big Bang" is a rapid expansion of space, time, and matter, while an explosion of the more everyday kind is a rapid expansion in space, time, and matter.

Cuttlefish said...

Your "last thursday" creation is so clearly a strawman; you should be ashamed of yourself for using such a lame rhetorical device.

The truth is, the universe started last TUESDAY, at a quarter past four.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/11/08/last-tuesdayism/

Calladus said...

@cuttlefish -

SPLITTER!

Obviously, you are incorrect, see here for predating evidence:

http://bit.ly/rP9cKk

Calladus said...

Oh great. Another one of my posts to his column is "held for moderation". Last time the moderator cut out a bit for being too "personal". He cut out the word idiot - which I think describes Vasko perfectly.

Oh well, this time I copied my post before hitting SEND, and will reproduce it here in full:

Vasko,

You said you "lived the better part of my life as an atheist" (http://bit.ly/vr04bm).

From your writing here, I would guess that you were an implicit atheist, what I call a "mere atheist". In other words, you were an atheist out of laziness - you were atheist because you couldn't be bothered to go to Church on Sunday. You were atheist because you didn't actually investigate what it is that you believed.

Were you a "true atheist"? Sure. Where you a learned atheist? No way.

Socrates was quoted as saying, "the life which is unexamined is not worth living". From your remarks here about atheism, it is evident that you never examined why you were an atheist, because you have made so many errors in logic about what it is to be an atheist.

Kirk Cameron once claimed to be an atheist. He claimed to be a very selfish person who used to do whatever he wanted, and since he didn't want to "do" religion then he called himself an "atheist". This is of course a stup!d reason to be an atheist. And the word "atheist" is not the best description of his world view. No, it is best described by the word "nihilist".

From your erroneous beliefs about atheism, I can only assume that nihilism is the best description for what you did before you decided to become religious.

Many atheists you will see in your comments have come from religious backgrounds, they (like myself) came out of religion because of a lack of belief based upon a lack of evidence. Some have been where you are now. Some have far surpassed you. The legion of atheists you will encounter on the Internet contains those who have dedicated half a century of their life to the Church, it contains atheists who used to be pastors and ministers. For example, I taught bible study in my church.

The "dictionary definition attack" on atheism is so poorly thought out that only the most willfully stup!d Christians tend to resort to that. Those who use it are usually blind to logic and reason, and are unable or unwilling to do the hard work of understanding a higher level of apologetic. It seldom occurs to them to google their argument before applying it, to talk it over with someone else to check it for weakness.

The "dictionary attack" is on par with Ray Comfort's "banana" argument, and it generates the same level of disrespect and derision.

I hope you can do better than that.

Peter Wall said...

Somehow, I think your efforts on this will be about as effective as my efforts to persuade my congressman that his views are contrary to reality.

Calladus said...

@peter,

And yet we keep tilting at windmills...

(sigh)

Jim Picht said...

I appreciate your comments but would like to clarify one thing. The Washington Times Communities is neither owned nor run by the Washington Times, but is hosted on its site. We are in negotiations with TWT to try to determine the mutual obligations owed by each side to the other, but at this point, we're independent.

I don't know who held your comment for moderation. I occasionally edit out the word "idiot," on the principle that it ends discussion rather than promoting it, but only if Disqus has already flagged the comment for moderation (which it does for reasons that aren't always obvious to me). Some of our writers aren't as thoughtful as I would like, but I disapprove of others calling them names. That's my job, and my management style keeps me from doing it.

Calladus said...

Jim,

I figured out that Disqus automatically holds up comments for hyperlinks. The "moderator's note" in my first held comment (was that you?) described my comment as "abusive" and said that it had been edited.

Now I know I didn't say anything more harsh than calling Vasko an idiot, or willfully stupid - which I believe is demonstrated by the evidence. But the way the comment was moderated made it seem as if I was cursing, which was not the case.

As for whether or not The Washington Times owns this forum or not - it does not matter to me or any of your readers. Merely having "The Washington Times" across your banner shows a close relationship.

If you, or other writers on this forum do not agree with the Unification Church, and do not agree with the Washington Times founder and owner that the reverend Sun Myung Moon is the reincarnation of Jesus, then why is the Washington Times banner across the top of your page?

In other words - the reality of your independence does not matter, you are tainted by the willful association you keep.

Ask yourself this... if Sun Myung Moon decided you should be fired, and that Vasko's articles should be purged from the website, how fast do you think that would happen?